Where are you from?
People ask me that because of my name. Olaina: creative parents in the 1970s. Maiden Name Gupta: I am ¾ Indian from India. Anderson: with an O. I was born in Toronto, Canada, to Indian immigrant parents who were chasing the “American Dream.” We moved to the States when I was in first grade and I grew up doing my best to be perfect. (I do not know why. It just seemed important for 30 years.) I am a wife with trophies for grades, writing, journalism, teaching, advising an award-winning high school newspaper and leading numerous volunteer organizations. And now, at 31, I am finished with being a human doing and trying to be a human being. I have finally given myself permission to explore painting and photography as activities important in my life and hopefully one day my livelihood. In these two forms of art I have managed to literally find light in the darkness.
What have you done?
So much for just being.
This July and August, I had the privilege of hanging my first photography show at Heights Café. “This is India.” captured my first and only visit to one of my answers to “where are you from.” It was an astonishing three-week experience in the summer of 2004. I went with my mother, father, brother, and husband. My dad is the only one who had visited there since my parents left just days after their wedding in 1968. We relied on him to translate with his now-broken Hindi as we swept through hotels and relatives’ homes in Bombay, Calcutta, New Delhi and Bangalore, finally settling in Goa during the off season to “rest.” “This is India” is a phrase we often heard from the natives when we had questions or comments about anything. It was spoken with the lilt of a rhetorical question, the flatness of a statement, the annoyance of someone stating the obvious, and the teasing voice of a cousin who knows the Western-way and understands the reason we asked. This is India: The traffic flows through intersections like sand through an hour glass, the monsoon downpours begin and end without warning, my husband got an electrical shock when he touched the shower knob of a hotel, the toilets even in middleclass apartments are flushed by buckets the user fills with water from a spigot in the wall, and if Heights Café were in India there would be families living under blue tarp tents on the sidewalk. In fact, it wouldn’t be too surprising if overnight someone built a concrete building (or one made of cow dung bricks) on the corner and just started living and working there. This is India.
Some of the photographs from that show will be on display with the Photo Arts Group in “Deja-View,” from Sept. 16 to 29, in Gallery 21 at the Spanish Village in Balboa Park and in “Multiple Universes Beyond Definitions” at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts, October 1 to 28.
I also have an ongoing show of acrylic paintings of flowers on wood called “Blossoming” at The Espresso Garden, which is located at 4121 Park Blvd. in Hillcrest.
Artist Statement about “Hate Free Zone”This portfolio begins with a black and white portrayal of the sadly controversial LGBTQ community. Here, color does not matter, but two dads love their adopted baby boy, and two women have been committed to each other for 25 years but only legally married in Canada for one year.
Next, there is the story of Evans Scott Cartwright’s baptism into the love of Jesus Christ, which knows no boundaries. None. Love one another. It’s that simple.
The third chapter is about my high school journalism staff. When I had to leave teaching for medical reasons, I signed our traditional senior gift with the words, “Know Greater Love.” High school can be such a tumultuous time; I know many of us are glad we only had to live through those years once in our lifetime. But the school newspaper students know great love—of words, of truth, of friends, of teachers, of self, and I was privileged to be a part of those four years of their lives. Those photos are of journalism conventions in Chicago and Seattle—they loved the color of the leaves, the chill in the air that gave them an excuse to walk arm in arm, the musical activities of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and of course the good old fashioned fun of a photo booth; so much fun that they fell asleep on the bus. A moment of peace.
Then there’s Mandi and Eric Tremaine’s wedding. The “girls” show their love for the bride by doting on her all day long, letting her tell them what color to wear and how to do their hair; the “boys” play pool to relax before the big moment, but even Eric, typically a big tough Marine, had tears of joy in his eyes on that day that was dedicated to love. Mandi glowed while she watched her husband and his mother dance, and then her father came and asked her to dance—the love of family grew into a bigger circle.
Jennifer and Tony Zimmerman love their California friends so much that they came all the way back from North Carolina, where he is now stationed in the Navy, to baptize their son Cal. Lori Killpatrick (now Smith) did not let her father see her in her wedding dress until she was completely ready to walk down the aisle with him and be given to her fiancé. The little girls loved every moment of their part as princesses, and her father let his love for his daughter pour forth in this final moment as daddy’s little girl.
In the world I want to live in, love shines brightly and wins over the darkness of pain and war, hunger and hatred, fear and all of the –isms. But for now, I see the glimmer of hope for the world in all of these people who love one another.
And here are some of the photos in the sidebar ------>